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Coordinated services for parents and their children key to breaking cycle of poverty

Human Services

First-generation low-income college students with children have a better chance of attaining educational goals and escaping poverty when the needs of parent and child are addressed through coordinated services, according to a report from the Aspen Institute’s Ascend.

Those students and their children are just one focus of the report “Top Ten for 2Gen: Policies and Principles to Advance Two-Generation Efforts.” The report examines the ways the prospects of children and parents are linked and mutually reinforcing – and the ways in which a two-generation approach can help low-income families escape the cycle of poverty.

Nearly 45 percent of all children in the United States – some 32 million – live in low-income families. Many low-income parents must juggle school, childcare and employment to attain their educational goals and secure a better future, says report co-author Anne Mosle, executive director of Ascend and a vice president of the Aspen Institute.

Nearly 45 percent of all children in the United States – some 32 million – live in low-income families.


 Aspen is an educational and policy studies organization. Ascend at the Aspen Institute is its hub for ideas and collaborations that move children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. The report culminates three years of research, roundtables and other meetings focused on a two-generation approach to move families out of poverty.

Ascend describes its report as a “to-do” list for achieving better outcomes for families, particularly first generation, low-income college students and their children.

It recommends:

  • Increased collaboration among human services agencies and higher-education institutions – particularly community colleges – to bundle services and access to benefits for low-income students.
  • Reform financial aid and other institutional policies to meet the needs of the rapidly growing number of enrolled parents.

Recommendations for policymakers are:

  • Strengthen family and parent support in Head Start and Early Head Start programs, recognizing that parents are also breadwinners.
  • Reform the Child Care Development Block Grant to increase access to and quality of early childhood settings for children and to ensure greater access to job training and education for parents.
  • Increase support for economic security outcomes – such as education and employment – in home visiting programs.
  • Redesign Temporary Assistance for Needy Families for the needs of parents, married or single.
  • Strengthen family connections through support and promotion of work opportunities for noncustodial parents.
  • Leverage the Affordable Care Act for family health and economic security, for instance by identifying and enrolling eligible parents and children into expanded Medicaid coverage to promote their well-being.
  • Maximize opportunities for whole-family diagnosis and treatment for mental health.

Kresge’s Human Services Program is a lead funder of Ascend and its two-generation approach, including support for “Top Ten for 2Gen.”

Kresge works to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities. Its Human Services Program seeks to strengthen multiservice human services organizations that improve the quality of life and economic security of low-income people.

 “We can’t break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by focusing only on children or just on parents,” says Guillermina Hernández Gallegos. “For too long, human services and education have been fragmented. Two-generation policies – child-focused and parent-focused – that are strategic and coordinated offer the best hope for millions of families working to escape poverty.”

“Top Ten for 2Gen” follows two earlier Ascend reports: “Two Generations, One Future,” which makes the case for pursuing two-generation policies, and “Two-Generation Playbook,” which offers a framework and examples to guide programs and practitioners.